If you enjoyed the beautiful 1st birthday party post that Jenn shared with us earlier, you are really going to appreciate her best party planning tips that will lower your stress, help you stay organized and maximize your enjoyment as a host/ess!
Guest blogger and “hostess with the mostess,” Jenn, and her daughter Riley Photo: Headrick’s Photography
Tips for Throwing a Stress-Free Kids’ Birthday Party (or Family Celebration)
by Jenn Hultz
First, come up with your theme/vision and make it meaningful to you and your child, as the memories will be so much sweeter. Start early and keep a notepad full of your ideas and checklists. I maintained an ongoing “note” on my iPhone so whenever I saw some inspiration, thought of an idea, or completed something off my checklist, I had it right there with me and the party planning was easily accessed and remained up-to-date.
In my opinion, planning early eases much of the stress closer to the event and lessens financial worry. For instance, I bought all the napkins, cups, and straws in the star-theme about six months ahead of the date of the party. My husband thought I was crazy, but that was one less thing we needed to worry about and I spread the cost of the party out over six months, instead of one. This definitely eased the pain of emptying our wallets. Also, store all of your decorations and party supplies in one place in your home. This again allows for easy access, planning, and organization, which in turn, makes the whole process enjoyable and more stress-free.
2. Timing is Everything…
Photo: Baby Hall Blog
The number-one priority for planning your party should be planning the time and place of the event around your little one. For instance, I thought about nap times and when they were the happiest. My twins were still taking two naps a day and had their longest “awake & happy” time after their afternoon nap. We planned their party from 3-6 pm. This time also benefited us in thinking of the type of food we would be serving our guests and allowed us to do finger foods and appetizers, instead of a complete lunch or dinner.
When thinking of a menu, keep it simple and kid-friendly. We did small sandwiches (which can be cut into fun shapes), pizza bites, vegetables and chips and dips, chicken nuggets, cheese and crackers, fruit, fried chicken, and peanut butter and jelly rollups. However, be aware of common food allergies (nuts/peanut butter). We decoratively labeled all of our dishes so kids and parents would be aware of what was in the food. This also provided another creative touch to the decor. Each sign had the food labeled clearly and a star quote beneath.
Just a sampling of the many fun and kid friendly foods served at the party. Photo: Jenn Hultz
The location of the party must be kid friendly and have places for all ages to play freely. Think about the time of year and outdoor or indoor options. Choosing your home as the venue definitely has its positives because the party itself tends to be less expensive and you have the flexibility with planning. However, hosting the party at an outside venue also has its perks. They tend to be a bit more exciting and it can make planning and execution much easier.
Jenn’s backyard was the perfect spot for older kids to run around and for all guests to relax and participate in a variety of activities. Photo: Headrick’s Photography
Finally, make sure those family members and best friends are able to attend on the date selected before finalizing and sending out invitations to the masses. I know the twins’ grandparents would have been devastated if they had prior obligations on the day of the party and couldn’t attend. Be respectful and considerate of those who you know would desperately want to attend.
Pinterest is a great tool and resource, but don’t feel pressured to make everything you see! Photo: Elizabeth Hill-Liz Blog
3. Research Ideas…But Remain Realistic
In today’s day and age, the internet and websites such as Etsy, Pinterest, and many different blogs (such as this one), provide excellent ideas for any type of party you could ever imagine hosting. If you plan far enough out from the date of the party, you can actually efficiently create a ton of homemade and do-it-yourself creative crafts and creations. However, be aware of this trap. You’ll never be able to “do it all” and have every single idea Pinterest suggests at the party and you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment. Pick and choose your favorites and remain realistic about what you can accomplish.
4. Games and Activities
Plan ahead and think of all the age ranges that will be attending the party. Make sure there are specific areas of activity for everyone. For instance, we had such a wide variety of ages we ended up with: swing set, small bounce house, corn hole, plastic water guns, soccer balls, and sidewalk chalk for outdoors. Kids of all ages are creative and will adapt to what is provided and will have a blast making new friends in an party environment, you just have to provide some initial starters.
Guests enjoyed fun games of corn hole on these fabulous DIY corn hole boards made by Jenn! Photo: Headrick’s Photography
5. Outsource and delegate key responsibilities to companies and/or friends
In our area, we have a fabulous grocery store, Publix, that caters food for events. They had exactly what I was looking for in type and breadth of selection of menu. They even delivered within an hour of my party start time! Talk about easing stress! This was a no-brainer for me.
Let your bartender worry about the drinks and cleanup while you enjoy your guests! Photo: blueberryfiles.com
I discussed this earlier, but this was such a win-win for our celebration that I had to share again! Our bartender set the entire bar up (with all of the drinks and mixers I provided), kept all the guests’ drinks filled, constantly cleaned up empty drinks and trash throughout the party, and took down the bar and cleaned up after the party was over. You don’t have to hire a professional either. Save money by hiring a friend or college student for a few hours. You won’t be disappointed in the ease with which your setup, party, and cleanup goes!
Having a photographer at the twins’ birthday party was, hands down, the best decision I ever made during the planning process. I came up with this idea on my own when thinking of ways to have a “minimal stress event” and what I could do to lessen the burden on myself, while desperately wanting to be 150% present with my family during the actual event.
Hiring a professional photographer for a couple of hours during your party allows you to be present at all times so you don’t have to worry about capturing all of the “moments.” You can send a list to the photographer prior to the event of the “must haves.” For our party, I wanted to capture photos of the entrance to the party, specific family with the babies, cake smash time, and many of the special touches that I had worked on and arranged for from the decor to the goody bags. My favorite unexpected gift was seeing all of the pictures later and realizing, by hiring someone else to take care of photography, I was able to see so many special moments between guests and family members I wasn’t aware of or present for.
A sweet moment between father and son made possible by their photographer! Photo: Headrick’s Photography
You don’t have to hire some expensive, well-established photographer to get this done. I found a professional photographer who had just moved to town and was looking to expand her business, so her pricing was incredibly reasonable (and worth every penny and then some, considering we have over 200 amazing memories captured on film for a lifetime to enjoy and cherish). You can also designate a friend or family member to be the photographer for the event, thus saving money but still having the same stress-free result.
6. Present Opening
Do you open or not open gifts with guests present?
In my opinion, you should avoid opening presents during party hours with young children. This can avoid jealousy amongst the other kids, the embarrassing comment by your little one that they don’t like the gift, and the stress that comes with keeping the gifts and givers organized for followup thank you cards. Gift opening can be a special moment between your child and your family later before bed or continuing the festivities into the next day. I felt strongly that my twins did not need anyone to bring them gifts for their party. I just wanted people to come, enjoy, and celebrate with our family. I struggled with etiquette about gifts on the actual invite and decided that I would include the following verbiage on a separate piece of paper within the party invitation:
“WE RESPECTFULLY ASK THAT YOU PLEASE NOT BRING GIFTS. Your presence is gift enough. Come enjoy lots of great food, drinks, and friends!”
Proud parents, Jenn and Mark, enjoying the party with twins, Parker and Riley Photo: Headrick’s Photography
7. It’s Party Time
Relax and enjoy! Realize that you’ve done all you can do and it’s going to be as perfect as realistically possible when you are dealing with kids. There will be things that happen that you did not plan on, for instance, hysterically crying during cake time! Just remember to roll with the punches and what ever happens: there will be phenomenal stories to tell your children when they are older. Just remain in the moment, relax, and party!! You did your best and be proud! This is a celebration of your child and for the wonderful parents you have become!
Thank you, Jenn, for sharing your helpful and practical party planning tips with us. Do you have any helpful tips or lessons learned to share with others? Please comment below and share the love!